Janet's Jargon

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Friday, August 05, 2011

It's the simple things in life

The question I am asked most often, about my books, is "Where do you get your ideas?" The answer is simple: from watching life and people. For example, A Christmas Dream started with an episode at a McDonald's. Who hasn't been to a McDonald's? It began with a marriage proposal, then went on (in my imagination and onto the pages of the book) to the people who gave their lives through "friendly fire" in Desert Storm. (I have a difficult time defining "friendly fire" in my mind, just like I can't reconcile there being such a thing as a "Civil War.")

Anyway, yesterday I went with a friend, Wendy Werner, to do a little grocery shopping in Iron Mountain, Michigan, about 30 miles from where I live. Wendy and I both belong to the "Rain Dancers" group that meets once a month in Pembine. It is a group of widows. I really didn't want to join the group when they invited me, as it took me more than 2 years after Ivan died before I could even say that word: "widows." The same was true with the word "died." I have reconciled myself with them now. However, the group is very lively, and while we all share one common loss, that of our spouses, we dwell on the positive. It is anything but a "pity party," which was what I feared it would be.

So, after the meeting, we headed for WalMart. Another one of those oh-so-ordinary places to spend a bit of time. I only had a few things to pick up, while she had a pretty long list, so I told her to take her time and I would wait for her on a bench at the front of the store.

As I sat there, a man, I would guess somewhere between 45-50 years old, came in. He was having a difficult time walking, so I was not surprised when he went over to one of the electric shopping carts. He sat on it, then greeted me. I made some comment about how nice it was to have the electric carts when you needed them, and he agreed. Then he drove off, but in about 5 minutes he was back. He backed the cart in beside me and we began to talk. I learned that he was a disabled Vet from Desert Storm. That led to my telling him about my good friend whom I have "met" through the Internet. He is also a disabled Vet, and about the same age, but from the Persian Gulf War, who lives in Oklahoma.

What a blessing it is to accumulate the wonderful friends we can find through a machine! Imagine what our ancestors would have thought of what we can do online. It would be as far-fetched to them as it was for kids in my era to read comic books about men on the moon. But we have lived to see it.

My friend in Oklahoma is Dr. Aubrey Love. Yes, that is his real name. (That's him pictured above.) When I told the man in Iron Mountain about him, he laughed. "Nobody has ever accused me of being a doctor of love," he joked. Then he reached into the basket on the cart and took out the two Snickers candy bars he had purchased. They were not in a bag, but he had the receipt for them in his hand in case anybody questioned him about them. He held one of them out to me and said, "You look like a person who would like to snicker sometimes," he said. I thanked him but declined, telling him that if I hadn't just eaten lunch I might have had a different answer for him. I didn't pay any attention to what he did with them, but when I got home, there was the Snickers bar in one of my bags of groceries.

I have e-mailed with Aubrey a few times today, as we usually do. When we were discussing which war he was in, he responded with not just the name of the war, but he said this: "It's like serving in 'black flag ops'; you were never there and it never happened, but the memories haunt you so and the scars are just as ugly."

I don't know for sure, but I would not be surprised at all if at least some of his injuries didn't come from that "friendly fire." At any rate, when you see a person of interest, take a few minutes to share a happy thought or two with them. You never know, it might just be the day-brightener they needed, or it might turn out to be a sweet experience for you too, with or without the Snickers bar.

Guess next time I send you a care package, Aubrey, I should include a Snickers bar in it!

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